Butter Braised Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce

  Butter Braised Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Butter Braised Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce | Image: Laura Messersmith

After more than five years of marriage and many wonderful dinners out together I can predict with a high level of accuracy what Mike will order from a menu. Any cocktail involving bourbon, oysters on the half-shell, and a gloriously grilled pork chop will catch his attention without fail. So, when I spotted this recipe for Butter Braised Pork Chops with Pickled Blueberry Balsamic Sauce on Not Without Salt last week I knew it would be perfect for a special Friday night dinner.

To be honest, I don’t always have the best luck trying to cook pork. I like it just slightly pink in the middle, but I have a tough time gauging the time and it ends up too raw, or over-cooked and dry. Neither option is ideal, so I was excited to try Ashley’s method of pan-searing and basting with a little bit of butter. It seemed like a simple, sure-fire way to cook a juicy, flavorful, restaurant-style pork chop.

I have another confession: I adore dishes that pair fruit with a savory ingredient, so while the pork chop was geared toward Mike, the blueberry sauce was the element that really convinced me to try this recipe. Just the thought of the bright blueberries, tart with balsamic spooned over salty, meaty pork made my taste buds sing and the results more than lived up to my imagination.

  Butter Braised Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Butter Braised Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce | Image: Laura Messersmith

Butter Braised Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce (serves 4)

A brief note on juniper berries. I was able to find them in the jarred spice section of my grocery store (they look like dark green peppercorns), but if they aren’t available I’d substitute a sprig or two of fresh rosemary to get the herbal, piney scent they add to the sauce.

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 whole garlic clove, peeled
3 thyme sprigs, divided
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup (6 ounces) fresh blueberries
4 bone-in pork chops
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
6 tablespoons butter, divided
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

Sauce Instructions:
In a small saucepan combine the juniper berries, garlic, two thyme sprigs, balsamic vinegar, sugar and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat then reduce to low and simmer for 5 minutes. (Cook a few minutes longer if you want a thicker, reduced sauce.)

Place the fresh blueberries in a bowl then strain the balsamic mixture through a sieve over the fruit. Allow the berries to sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.

The sauce can be made up to a day in advance and refrigerated. Rewarm before serving.

Pork Chop Instructions:
Sprinkle the pork chops generously with kosher salt and ground black pepper.

Set a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet over high heat, then add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 3 tablespoons butter to the pan. When the oil shimmers and the butter sizzles carefully add the pork chops to the pan. Cook in batches if necessary to prevent crowding the pan.

Cook on one side undisturbed for 3 minutes, then flip the chops and again let the chops sear for 3 minutes.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and thyme sprig and with a large spoon start basting the chops with the butter. Flip the chops repeatedly and continue to baste. The chops are done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chop reads 135°F. This should take about 7-8 minutes.

Remove the chops from the pan, cover with foil and rest for 15 minutes. Serve with the pickled blueberry-balsamic sauce.

Slightly adapted and re-written from Butter Braised Pork Chops with Pickled Blueberry Balsamic Sauce by Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt.

  Butter Braised Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Butter Braised Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a 8” cast iron skillet, tongs, and a long-handled spoon (key since the pan is hot!); along with a paring knife, small sauce pan, medium bowl, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, and a small sieve. A plate for resting and aluminum foil round out the necessary equipment.

The Verdict:
Mike was nervous about the post-sear flipping, but the tender, juicy results more than convinced him. The pork was perfectly cooked with a golden crust and deep flavor that worked beautifully with the herbal, fruity blueberries. I served the chops over wilted garlicky kale, with a handful of fresh blue berries, a few dabs of goat cheese, and a sprinkle of slivered almonds. Heaven. These pork chops are deceptively simple combining a relatively small number of ingredients with results that are far greater than the sum of the parts.  I can’t wait to try this cooking method with other fruit sauces. Peaches or cherries maybe?

  Butter Braised Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Butter Braised Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce | Image: Laura Messersmith